Known for his signature ‘Valentino Red’ and his personal relationships with some of the most famous and glamorous women in the world, Italian designer Valentino has had a 50-year career at the top of the fashion industry. To celebrate Valentino’s work, Somerset House is now showing a major exhibition of his haute couture collections from the ’50s to the 2010s.
The first section, where projections of photos and images light up the walls and platforms, explores Valentino’s life. A collection of his sketches features one design scrawled on Hotel Copacabana note paper for the Autumn/Winter 2004/05 collection. In other displays, there are signed photos, such as one from Liz Taylor in 1971. There are personal letters to Valentino from the likes of Anna Wintour, a cover from a 1971 copy of Life magazine featuring Jackie O in a red Valentino dress, and various private photographs and cuttings from magazines like Vogue, with a timeline of Valentino’s career.
Upstairs, ‘The Catwalk’ is a role-reversal display of Valentino’s work, arranged on either side of the central walkway. The collection includes Julia Roberts’s vintage dress that she wore to the 2001 Oscars; a green satin one-shouldered dress worn by Jackie O on an official visit to Cambodia in 1967 and her 1968 wedding dress; a white gabardine dress with the classic gold metal V detail from A/W 1967/68; a gold tiger-stripe sequinned mini dress with a fox fur trim from the A/W 1987/88 collection; and a beige tulle dress with crystal bead embroidery from A/W 2006/07, amongst many other beautiful designs grouped by theme.
Downstairs, on its own spotlighted platform is the 1995 wedding dress of Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, which was made with ten different types of lace and encrusted with pearls. Behind this, the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum shows clips of some of the designer’s memorable moments in video form.
‘The Atelier’ is the final section, displaying the technical detail behind Valentino couture at the hands of the seamstresses or le ragazze (the girls). This includes samples of techniques like Rose di Volant (lengths of organza silk cut on the bias and shaped to form open roses) and the budellini technique, unique to Valentino, and which involves double charmeuse silk being rolled and sewn around looped lengths of wool.
The Valentino exhibition has been put together by design team Kinmonth Monfreda and Alistair O’Neill in collaboration with Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti and it is a truly wonderful and rare opportunity to see the scope of Valentino’s talent and influence over the past 50 years.
Valentino: Master of Couture is open from 10am to 6pm until Sunday 3 March 2013 at:
Tickets cost £12.50 for adults
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid